Film Review: Mirror Mirror

Little fun for the entire family.

With Mirror Mirror, the basic aim of erstwhile action director Tarsem Singh and his creative team seems to have been to obliterate all thought of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, not to mention the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman. A jaw-dropping ton of money and effort has been expended, but to depressingly little avail.

The filmmakers have placed the villain of the Grimm fairy tale, The Queen, front and center here, as one supposes befits Julia Roberts’ star status. But the deliciously evil, campy romp one might have expected from such a shift completely eludes them, so devoid of wit, fantasy and cinematic magic are their ideas, which don’t even rise to a perfunctory sitcom level of entertainment. The Queen even has a controlling doppelganger in her mirror’s reflection, and the fact that Roberts looks too haggard—she’s somehow become all nose—to begin with, and her twinned image even worse, certainly doesn’t help matters. Roberts’ histrionic limitations are all too apparent: She simply doesn’t have the high style or comic technique to be truly fun and even her famous guffaw—indelible from Pretty Woman—is callously recycled when the Queen discovers that her plans have gone awry. (The audience didn’t even respond to this in-joke.)

Indeed, the real “fairest in the land” here is actually Armie Hammer as Prince Alcott, who comes to the Queen’s kingdom in search of adventure. With his unjustly beneficent beauty—often displayed sans shirt—Hammer is the only one in the cast to emerge positively, so effortlessly charming and ardent is he, even given such shoddy material. Lily Collins (Snow White) is fetching enough, in that rather bland, brunette, pre-approved way of previous movie princesses like Anne Hathaway and Emmy Rossum, but has been unaccountably provided with disfiguring Groucho Marx eyebrows. Executive producer Kevin Misher has already optimistically likened her to Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor, but it was a mistake to give her those beetle-brows, which only those two beauties—and the very young Brooke Shields—were ever able to carry off. (I kept waiting for Collins to have a makeover.)

The “p.c.” interracial seven dwarfs our heroine encounters are just a bunch of little annoyances. Their names—Napoleon, Half Pint, Grub, Wolf, Butcher, Chuckles and Grimm—tell you all you need to know about the half-baked effort which went into their characterizations, making those original Disney little people seem like Proustian portraits by comparison. (Typical of the script’s lazy crappiness is the factually insane end title which tells us that Grimm—the movie’s seventh dwarf—went on to write fairy tales.)

Here, under the Queen’s evil reign, all the joy and sunshine have gone out of the world, which is permanently blanketed in snow which is as phony-looking as in the opening scenes of the set-bound 1967 Camelot. But no one ever seems to shiver or be in any way affected by this, even Prince Alcott, when he is trussed, half-naked, by those pesky dwarfs. This detail is typical of the sloppiness of Singh’s direction, a true mismatch of temperament and subject if ever there was.

Visually, the movie is no great shakes, CGI-ridden with grubby cinematography, sets that looked cadged from the truly magical 1935 Max Reinhardt Midsummer Night’s Dream (with thrift-shop furnishings), and excessive, ugly costumes by the late Eiko Ishioka. The film is dedicated to Ishioka, who could be a great designer at times, but hers and Singh’s sensibilities seem to have brought out the worst in each other. (The blue-and-orange wedding dress for Snow White at the climax in which she lapses into—surprise!—a Bollywood number is a nightmare, and Roberts should have looked in her mirror and, with every wardrobe change, removed ten things.)